One NPR blog post considered research that suggested excessive screen time could hinder children’s abilities to read facial emotions and nonverbal cues. Other studies warn about additional negative consequences, from irregular sleep patterns and childhood obesity to behavioral and social issues.
Yet for all the problems associated with it, screen time has become part of our culture and lifestyle. Let’s not forget the benefits, too – educational programs, motor coordination, etc. Just like with television a few decades ago, families are wrestling not with whether to use it, but how.
We’re not going into a debate about “right” or “wrong” limits of screen time, as they differ with each family and situation. However, we found these following tips from area homeschool moms helpful:
Choose the time of day.
One mom won’t allow screen time until between 4-6 p.m., after all the dinner chores are done and the kids are waiting for dad to come home from work. This gives her some peace and quiet to make the food without interruptions!
Make screen time a reward that must be earned.
Have the kids finished their schoolwork? Completed chores around the house, and to mom’s satisfaction? Only then, according to one mom’s policy, do they get to use their screens.
Set quality standards.
One homeschooling mom says she doesn’t set limits on screen time per se, but she regularly enforces what her children are exposed to. Movies, online games, etc. are all previewed and approved.
Link attitudes and privileges accordingly.
If children in one homeschool household start to complain or grumble, their screen-time privileges are revoked and they’re encouraged to do something else, such as going outside to play or perform chores until their mood improves. 🙂
Watch your own screen time!
How come it’s so much easier to preach instead of practice? If kids make a good case that mom and dad “always” have their noses glued to their smartphone or tablet, then you’ll have a harder time enforcing your own screen-time regulations.
Make sure your children know where screen time is as a priority.
If you make sure that other events and activities come above screen time – such as family dinners and field trips – the more your children will learn from your example.
Try timers and tickets.
Some parents have found that set quantities of time can help with continual nagging and complaints. If your children are old enough to set their own timers, for instance, or budget their “technology tickets” for the week, they know the limits and have freedom to work within them.
Involve them in prioritizing.
Maybe your relationship with your kids is really suffering in this area. Show them that you’re interested in equipping them for their best possible futures. They need to learn and practice self-control in this area, as with everything else in life.
One mom has found it helpful to involve her children in daily planning, such as getting them a small calendar or appointment book. (The more like mom’s, the better!)
Suggest putting aside times for family nights, special “daddy-daughter” or “mother-son” dates, etc. See where screen time fits into this schedule, and encourage them to make the best use of their days. Give them as much age-appropriate control over their schedules as you can.
What have you found helpful for managing screen time in your homeschool?
We have updated this blog post, originally published in November 2014, for timeliness and detail.